Lafayette in the Somewhat United States

Lafayette in the Somewhat United States

eBook - 2015
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From the bestselling author of Assassination Vacation and The Partly Cloudy Patriot , an insightful and unconventional account of George Washington's trusted officer and friend, that swashbuckling teenage French aristocrat the Marquis de Lafayette.

Chronicling General Lafayette's years in Washington's army, Vowell reflects on the ideals of the American Revolution versus the reality of the Revolutionary War. Riding shotgun with Lafayette, Vowell swerves from the high-minded debates of Independence Hall to the frozen wasteland of Valley Forge, from bloody battlefields to the Palace of Versailles, bumping into John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Lord Cornwallis, Benjamin Franklin, Marie Antoinette and various kings, Quakers and redcoats along the way.

Drawn to the patriots' war out of a lust for glory, Enlightenment ideas and the traditional French hatred for the British, young Lafayette crossed the Atlantic expecting to join forces with an undivided people, encountering instead fault lines between the Continental Congress and the Continental Army, rebel and loyalist inhabitants, and a conspiracy to fire George Washington, the one man holding together the rickety, seemingly doomed patriot cause.

While Vowell's yarn is full of the bickering and infighting that marks the American past--and present--her telling of the Revolution is just as much a story of friendship: between Washington and Lafayette, between the Americans and their French allies and, most of all between Lafayette and the American people. Coinciding with one of the most contentious presidential elections in American history, Vowell lingers over the elderly Lafayette's sentimental return tour of America in 1824, when three fourths of the population of New York City turned out to welcome him ashore. As a Frenchman and the last surviving general of the Continental Army, Lafayette belonged to neither North nor South, to no political party or faction. He was a walking, talking reminder of the sacrifices and bravery of the revolutionary generation and what the founders hoped this country could be. His return was not just a reunion with his beloved Americans it was a reunion for Americans with their own astonishing, singular past.

Vowell's narrative look at our somewhat united states is humorous, irreverent and wholly original.

Publisher: New York, New York : Riverhead Books, 2015
ISBN: 9781101624012
Characteristics: text file, rda
Additional Contributors: OverDrive, Inc. - Distributor

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DBRL_IdaF Nov 19, 2020

I knew France was instrumental in helping America win the revolution, but I didn't realize the degree. There were more French soldiers than American at the Battle of Yorktown. And there's a reason so many towns, parks, squares and this and that in the U.S. are named Lafayette something-or-other. He was a celebrity, widely haled as a hero.

Sarah Vowell is both funny and an excellent researcher. I love that combination. She describes the Chateau de Versailles as "my least favorite building on earth, the morally and architecturally bankrupt compendium of gilded nonsense and flimflam.."

If you never thought you were interested in history, give this book a try. Sarah Vowell might change your mind.

k
kwylie04
Oct 21, 2020

Sarah Vowell reminds Americans just why the Marquis de Lafayette is so important and should be remembered in this witty, hilarious book focusing on the man's years spent here in the fight for American Independence. With delightful irony, Vowell tells Lafayette's story with a modern, sardonic voice that still conveys his importance, both in his own actions and as a symbol. I flat out loved every minute of this book. Worth every minute.

CCPL_Carly Jan 15, 2020

Well-read historians and amateurs alike will find this book to be a fascinating study of Lafayette - a selfless patriot, risking his life in a foreign country in the interest of advancing the liberty of all mankind. The author has once again made her subject both humorous and accessible, engineering a quick and engaging book sure to appeal to those who find her style of behind-the-scenes history so entertaining.

n
N13m4nd
Dec 09, 2019

Sarah Vowell’s style is to examine American history with an ironic modern sensibility. The facts are there and she’s no slouch at the scholarship, but at the same time Vowell finds the humor and pettiness in history while avoiding the common pitfall of simplistically mocking and insulting the people of the past. She clearly adores her subjects even while poking fun at them. In this, her seventh book, the subject is the Revolutionary War, which she follows through the career of French volunteer Lafayette. As always, it’s a fast, fun read.

k
KMJ_
Jan 23, 2018

I needed to read a history book for my library’s book bingo, and I’m so glad I picked this one! Lafayette is fascinating, and Sarah Vowell paints the perfect picture of him. There’s so much information about his youthful idealism, contributions during the Revolutionary War, and lifelong friendships with the founding fathers. Vowell does a great job of showing how bad things were for the Americans at times, and how many disastrous things happened that could have swung the war the other way. Of course, what sets this book apart is the humor. I think my favorite description is when she says the French soldiers looked like they were from a “Tchaikovsky ballet directed by Wes Anderson,” while the Americans were dressed “like zombie Tom Joads.” I wish there had been more about Lafayette’s return trip to America in 1824, where he was greeted by adoring crowds everywhere he went. My only complaint is that there are no chapter breaks. I know Sarah Vowell writes about American History, but she made me so interested in Lafayette that I wish she would write another book about his role in the French Revolution.

n
neilahuber
Oct 26, 2016

Drawn to this book by my recent obsession with the musical Hamilton, I was pleasantly surprised to find not necessarily a biography but more of a light and enjoyably-written overview of the American Revolutionary War. I've never read Sarah Vowell before, and I found her style to be really interesting to read but also detailed about the matters at hand. Her thesis that America's history of infighting and disagreement being the main reason they were able to successfully transition (or at least, successfully compared to France) to a republican government after winning the war was very interesting as a way to frame the whole book. Highly recommended if you're a history buff, or if you've just become obsessed with Hamilton as many have...

k
kathylou
Aug 18, 2016

Though this recounting of the American revolution can be a little too detailed and mocking, it makes clear that it was a much messier and less noble event than what I was taught in school. Some of it is great fun and some of it revealing and some, not boring as noted by others but perhaps a bit tedious. But it's history!

k
knitter2248
Feb 22, 2016

This is a very interesting book, a combination of biography about Lafayette, history of the American Revolution, comparison between a not united America then and now, and the author's research for this book. It's all of the above and none of the above as the author digresses in her narrative.

There is no question that the material has been meticulously researched and it's well written.

My issues with the book are first that it's style is too casual or breezy and my biggest problem is lack of an index and footnotes to document some of the facts.

I found it hard to take this book seriously.

bklyn74 Jan 18, 2016

I could not get into this one. Too much Lafayette, not enough about her exploring her subject.

r
Revacard
Jan 16, 2016

Sarah Vowell did a good job at making history interesting again. I did not know much about Lafayette, an interesting man. I still enjoy her stuff and the narrative she creates on historical topics.

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